If the cinema du Judd Apatow (films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up) was the beginning of a comedy-movie trend about goofy man-boys struggling to grow up, Tag has to represent some kind of ultimate nadir. I understand that many American men still have trouble processing and expressing their feelings in healthy ways. But this isn’t just a film about guys in their 40s struggling to have sex, get married, or have kids; they’re also struggling to keep up the epic game of tag they’ve been playing since they were 9 years old.
The movie, directed by Jeff Tomsic and written by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, is based on a true story—a Wall Street Journal article about a whimsical game of tag that lasted 23 years. Even a brief scan of that article brings up some alarming details, like the fact that one player’s attempt to surprise another ended with his wife falling and tearing a knee ligament. Tag the movie leans into how extreme things have become over time for its heroes, staging silly chase sequences like adrenaline-fueled action scenes. But it only sporadically acknowledges just how weird and warped its premise actually is.
The rules of aggro man-tag are essentially the same as the playground variant: If the person who is “it” touches a person who is not “it,” then that second person becomes “it”—and you definitely don’t want to be “it.” In Tag, there are no winners, just a loser. Since the game is only played in the month of May, the last one tagged has a whole year to live with the shame of being “it.” Since these guidelines were devised by a bunch of 9-year-olds, no girls are allowed. But some of the characters’ wives still get involved as helpers, since sneaking up on someone takes a lot of planning and scheming.